Police probe of Syracuse assistant to take weeks

FILE - In this March 25, 2010, file photo, Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine sit on the bench at the end an NCAA West Regional semifinal college basketball game against Butler in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson, File)

November 21, 2011 6:20:45 PM PST
Syracuse Police said Monday it will take several weeks to investigate allegations by two former ball boys who said they were molested more than 25 years ago by a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick's office also is investigating the allegations lodged against Bernie Fine. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said police will not release information on the investigation "in piecemeal fashion."

Fine has been placed on paid administrative leave by the university. In his 36th season as an assistant to Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Fine has called the charges "patently false," asked for a quick review, and expressed confidence he would be vindicated.

Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis said in a report that aired last Thursday that the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four, when the Orange lost to Indiana in the national championship game.

Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a Syracuse ball boy, told ESPN that Fine molested him starting when he was in fifth or sixth grade.

Neither Davis nor Lang were available for comment despite repeated efforts by The Associated Press to reach them.

Davis previously reported his allegations to Syracuse police in 2002 and to the university in 2005. Police declined to pursue the case because the statute of limitations had expired, and the university could not corroborate his claims during a four-month investigation.

Davis had said interviews with four other people would support his allegations, but all denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by Fine, according to the university.

After fifth-ranked Syracuse beat Colgate on Saturday, Boeheim steadfastly defended Fine.

"I've been friends for 50 years with coach Fine, and that buys a lot of loyalty from me," Boeheim said. "It should."

Students were mostly gone from campus on Monday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. A handful of protesters gathered near the main entrance and called for the elimination of the state's statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases.

"It's time to stop hiding behind the statute of limitations," said Richard Tollner of the New York Coalition to Protect Children. "Children must have a voice."

Prosecutions in New York state for felony sex abuse of a child have to begin within five years after authorities learn about it, or within five years after a child turns 18.

Paul DerOhannesian, defense attorney and former Albany County prosecutor, said the five-year statute of limitations has clearly passed for any alleged crimes in this case if they took place in New York. Any out-of-state incidents during basketball road trips would be subject to the laws of those states, which might not have the same limits, he said.

DerOhannesian said the prosecutor also can bring information and witnesses before a grand jury to do a fact-finding report and recommend changes in the law.

Load Comments